Cecilia Nobre ELT Blog

I (kinda) survived my first plenary talk


It’s past midnight on July 8th ( now, the 9th) and I’m writing this blogpost to blow off some steam from this very emotional day. I attended the fantastic BRAZ-TESOL SIG Symposium that took place in São Paulo ( I love this city, mind) on July 7th and 8th. So many phenomenal professionals to see and knowledge to share 🙂

I delivered my first ever plenary talk which was titled “let’s get uncomfortable” and I indeed walked the talk. It was all about the discomfort feeling that teachers and students usually experience when discussing gender issues in the classroom.

I’ll need a new post to talk about the plenaries and talks which I attend – I’m actually writing this to share my impressions about my own plenary.

Good things: I’ve survived. The audience seemed engaged and interested. It was OK for a first plenary. Yes, just Okay.

What I’d do differently next time: Prepare it one month in advance, rehearse it 10x. Show my passion without too much hesitation( advice from a friend which I completely agree with).

                   What are gender issues?

For me, gender issues encompass everything to do with gender identity, equality, gender discrimination, rights. Some specific topics may include

  • How can we decrease the Wage gap between men and women
  • How are curvy women fighting fat shaming
  • Can boys and girls play with the same toys?
  • Why are there more men in science and IT than women?
  • Can men be feminist?
  • Can certain behaviours be excused with “boys will be boys”?


                 Reinventing our role as a teacher

When you chair a lesson on controversial issues, you’re not there to impose your beliefs or answers- you’re there to introduce a topic and be open to listen. Some people may say that a teacher shouldn’t even give their opinion. Well, I’m of an opposing view to that I believe that by giving an opinion that may contradict the opinions of the students in the class, we can model the way we behave in these kinds of situations in real life. Language that we use to politely disagree with people with different opinions. There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s not a boxing ring. 

  • Identify your own biases and prejudice

We all have unconscious biases. Reflect on it and think about how you can challenge your own beliefs. There’s that saying “if you don’t like how things are, change it! You’re not a tree”. Or are you?


  • Be a good listener and facilitator


Truly listen. Avoid jumping a to conclusion, avoid finishing their sentences. It’s hard but we can do it.


  • Mediate difficult conversations                                                                                    

Ensure your students feel safe to voice their opinions by carefully mediating difficult conversations. If you have set ground rules for discussion at the start of the lesson, this will make your job easier. Be respectful and use non-confrontational language to remind people, when necessary of the agreed upon rules. Deconstruct this power structure between teachers and students and create a more horizontal dynamic in your classroom.


  • Plan the topic – not the answers


These kinds of lesson have worked best for me when I have prepared the topic carefully but remained open to any possible answer that I might hear from my students.  If this idea concerns you, I suggest going to social media and reading the comments so you can have a taste of what might come up – think about how you would respond to comments that are hurtful or inappropriate.


  • Guide and support students through their discomfort.  


I have only ever brought these topics into my lesson after having built up a certain level of rapport with my students.  That way, if students experience discomfort, I feel comfortable to support them and discuss it openly. I am always friendly but never try to take on the role of their mother or father.


  • Use humour when suitable

If all else fails, what has worked in my experience is to approach gender issues with humour – but be careful because there’s a fine line between being playful and being sarcastic. 

Here are my plenary slides that I turned into a PDF document (Plenary Let’s get uncomfortable) . 






What are you up to?

I haven’t written here for 2 months and I’m really embarrassed. When I decided to start a blog, I promised myself to write 3 posts a month, at least. Well, I hate making up excuses, therefore, I won’t say “I’ve been so busy, sorry”( I have, but then my devil’s side says “so has everyone else!”).

After this shameful two-month hiatus, I’ve decided to share a few things that have happened and will happen in the near future. It’s a way of holding myself accountable, I guess.

  • I wrote an article for One Stop English last March called “Teaching online” for their series Challenges in ELT. One Stop English’s team told me the article has been viewed over 12,000 times, which is impressive. If you haven’t read, it’s here.

  • Last May I launched my first online course for teachers called Teaching 1:1 online, where I shared ideas and explained the basics of using Zoom in online classes.  I loved the experience and I’m looking forward to getting the evaluation from the teachers who enrolled in the course. I will offer it again in August. I also discovered 2 new techie tools: Crowdcast for webinars and Screencast-o-matic for screen recording. Highly recommend them!

  • We had our launching Voices event with lovely and strong ELT women in Brazil and our special guest Nicola Prentis who delivered an awe-inspiring talk online last April. I’m one of the 5 proud founding members of the Voices SIG (Special Interest Group in association with BRAZ-TESOL), which aims to promote gender equality and career development for women in ELT. We had 4 concurrent events in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Curitiba and Vitoria to officially launch the SIG and start planning the next steps. Very exciting!  I must say that having met Claire, Cintia, Ila and Nina and getting to know them by supporting the same cause has enriched my life in such a way I wouldn’t have expected.

    If you want to know more about the SIG, check out our introductory video.


    WhatsApp Image 2017-06-02 at 22.05.06

    Voices launching event in Rio de Janeiro 🙂 


  • I’m chuffed to bits because I’m going to interview Sandy Millin for my blog ( stay tuned!). I’m a huge fan of her and her blog. It wouldn’t be unfair to recommend only one blogpost that I really like, so you’d better check out her whole blog for teaching ideas.

  • Being a cheeky person as I am, I have sent my storytelling lesson plan to Jamie Keddie ( love his work!) and, to my amusement, he gave me a caring and detailed feedback. I love the fact that my ELT idols are so down-to-earth and kind. You can read and learn from Jamie here. I loved his thorough feedback, especially the “reminder” that we should forget the questions and rather, focus on the story itself – it’s a bit hard because we teachers are so used to asking questions, aren’t we? Anyway, I’m going to try out another lesson plan soon based on a narrative song he sent to his subscribers. You can read it and subscribe to his website here to receive his weekly posts and information on courses.

  • I’m also over the moon that my Teachers’ group on Facebook has hit over 2.4k members. I remember creating it in 2013 and there were over 100 people. It focusses on freelance English teaching and it’s a quite lively and friendly group. You can join here if you wish.

  • I don’t know about you, but I love travelling. Funnily enough, I usually choose London because it’s my favourite place on Earth so every time I’m there, I feel I have a warm glow inside. So, I travelled to my favourite place last month for a 2-week holiday and it was fabulous! Got the chance to grab a cuppa with a few friends and meet some colleagues in ELT such as Hugh Dellar, Mark Heffernan and Karina Thorne. Obviously, teaching was the main part of our conversation, after all what else do teachers talk about when we’re not working? 😉 Mind you, if you live in London or somewhere in the UK and love coffee, let me know so I can have another coffee mate next time I’m there!

  • And I was in London when I received the most expected email of all: I got the Hornby Scholarship to study the Masters in ELT  at the University of Warwick. I can’t put into words what I feel right now, let’s just say I’ve been on a high since I got the news. I applied for the scholarship last year and I didn’t pass, so I decided to drastically boost my career opportunities to be more prepared for applying again this year. Soon after my rejection email last year, I decided to organise and speak at ELT events in my hometown, Rio de Janeiro; attended more ELT conferences in different parts of Brazil and I also plunged into blogging. You know when you go out there and make your own luck? That’s exactly what I did and it has paid off 🙂

    I can’t wait to start studying, to meet my classmates, the other Hornby scholars and my tutors! I’m really hoping I can impact the huge and vibrant ELT community in Brazil somehow, during and after my studies at Warwick.

    From October onwards, I will also start writing about my impressions of the course, things I’ll learn there, conferences I will attend ( IATEFL 2018, here I go!), interview tutors and classmates and the like. I’m super excited!

  • Last, but not least, I was invited by my dear friend and ELT colleague Carina Fragozo to write some video scripts for her successful Youtube channel English in Brazil. If you don’t know her yet, check out her channel and blog – just bear in mind she speaks Portuguese in the videos most of the time.She has had her channel since 2013 and she combines her expertise in the language ( she’s got a PhD in Linguistics) by giving useful tips to Brazilian learners of English. She does that brilliantly!

How about you? What are you up to?

BBC Interview from Hell: Storytelling


The magic world of Storytelling

I recently bought the captivating book Videotelling ( it’s also a finalist for the ELTons 2017) by Jamie Keddie, and I was inspired to use some of the storytelling techniques to approach this brilliant video. I hope to do justice to the book. 

As you all might know, Professor Robert Kelly found himself struggling with domestic matters two weeks ago when, during a Skype call to discuss South Korea with BBC One, his two cute children burst in behind him. Besides that, his wife frantically dashed in to retrieve the kids. Needless to say, the video has gone viral and it’s the perfect timing to discuss working from home.


The main purpose of this lesson is the storytelling and discussing with students and not to make them guess what viral video it is about – I suppose guessing the video would be easy for students as the video went viral quite recently.

This lesson plan is suitable for A2- B1 students.


 Story and Procedures

  1. Read the story aloud but don’t say it is based on a video


  • Make eye-contact to develop awareness of your audience. Are your students paying attention?
  • Use gestures and actions to mimic the characters. This will be fun!


From Jamie Keddie’s book: Familiarize yourself with the text and read it out a few times before taking it into class. Identify moments that require vocal punctuation ( rising or falling intonation, attention to rhythm, phrasing, pause, etc.)

Teachers are supposed to read the story and make pauses to ask and interact with students. The main purpose is to engage students into the story and make them curious.

If you want to listen to my version, click here.

1.1  You can read the story and interactive questions here: BBCInterviewfromHell-Forteachers ( Timing : 30′ for reading the story and asking and getting feedback from the questions)


  1. Show the word cloud and ask them if they know the video. Handout here ( Timing : 15′)

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 18.02.26

     2.1. Pair up students and they have to come up with a story using 5 words from the wordcloud.

  1.  Students watch the video ( Timing: 2′)

              3.1 You can find the story as a PDF file and hand it to your students after they watch the video : BBCInterviewfromHell-Forstudents


  1. Revisit the story after the video so you can draw the students’attention to key words and phrases ( Timing: 10′)


This is the new vocabulary you might want to explore before telling the story:


  • You’ll slay it! ( informal for “you will succeed”)
  • Groomed (=  looking neat, clean and smart)
  • Show off ( = to try to impress)
  • Blur of yellow ( = blur is a shape you can’t see clearly)
  • To bop ( = to dance)
  • Sassy head ( = smart and stylish
  • To tilt ( = move it slightly upwards or to one side)
  • To shove the girl out of sight ( = to push the girl with a quick movement)
  • Keep his cool ( = to manage to remain calm in a difficult situation)
  • To waddle ( = walk with short steps, swinging slightly from side to side)
  • Muffled cries (= unclear and quiet sound, in this case, the cries of the children when the mother closed the door)

5. Sequencing Exercise – Students will practise transition words so that they can use the new vocabulary in final task ( students’ storytelling)

Handout here : BBCInterviewfromHell-Sequencingexercise

Discussion & Follow-up Questions ( timing : 15′ )


What I liked about Professor Robert Kelly was the fact that he experienced the moment most of working parents dread: being at home on an important call, only to be interrupted by his curious children. Apart from the interview itself, there aren’t any dialogues between the kids, the wife, and the professor. It’s just brilliant.

Now it’s time to ask further questions. According to Jamie Keddie, questions are the key to storytelling. Asking suitable questions help students engage, comprehend the world and reduce teacher input. Some suggestions are:

  1. Do you work from home? What are the perks of working from home?
  2. What are the perils of working from home?
  3. Do you have any ritual when you work from home? What do you wear? What is the room like?
  4. What kinds of jobs offer flexible working hours?
  5. What do you think happened in Professor Kelly’s house when the interview was over?
  6. How would you feel if you were the professor?


Final task:  Students as the storytellers ( Timing : 15′)

Ask students to recreate the story from the mother’s point of view in pairs or trios. Why did the kids burst into the room? What happened in the living room after she grabbed her kids?


A Business Lesson : MOMA’s present perfect statement on the ban

I have great friends, most of them are (unsurprisingly) teachers. I am delighted to introduce you to a friend and fellow teacher Sylvia Gonçalves.
Today I was chatting with Sylvia about business lesson plans and we both came up with the idea of having one of her Business LPs here, as she doesn’t write her own blog ( yet). Sylvia is an expert in Business English and I’m sure you’ll find this lesson plan valuable to your classes.
Take it away, Sylvia 🙂
When I first thought of this class, my idea was to find authentic pieces of Present Perfect that could be used with my B2 students. As you all know, students struggle a lot with it and the fact that they can’t relate to any verb tense in Portuguese, makes it even scarier.
I came across this article on Facebook, and I found very interesting the way the
museum was dealing – in a subtle and courteous way – with Trump’s controversial
decision to ban people from Muslim countries. So, I’ve designed this lesson for my one-to- one students, but it can also be adapted for groups. Ideally, it was thought as a 90-minute lesson but depending on the student/ students teachers can stretch it to two classes of 60 minutes each.



Placard (gap fill) – Download here:  Placard_Article_Arts.com

Warm up

Have students look at 3 pieces of Art (preferably from Moma)
Elicit student’s opinion
a) Do you like going to museums?
b) Do you like them? Why? Why not?
c) What do you think they have in common?
Teacher writes on WB student’s opinions and provides useful vocabulary to describe art. For example: abstract, aesthetic, lifelike, minimalist…


The teacher explains to students the paintings are from different Muslim artists and a
museum in the USA found a way to protest against the ban. Teacher gives a copy of the placard and asks students to complete the gap with the missing prepositions. (If you’re using this class with strong B1 students you should provide them a list of possible prepositions to fill the blanks)

I personally like to give feedback on the board, mainly because I can manipulate
sentences and elicit examples from my students. That is, have your students come up with more examples of verb/ noun + preposition patterns.


I always begin my reading activities with some kind of PTV (Pre-teach vocabulary). I’ve been teaching English for more than ten years, and something I’ve learned with my Latin America students is that they cling to many words during the reading, so PTV activities give them more confidence since they seem to have more vocabulary.Teacher asks students to match words and their definitions.

Once again, provide feedback on the WB so you can elicit synonyms, antonyms and/or collocations.

Students read the text and locate more examples of verb/noun + prepositions.

Note: You might need to clarify the difference between the verb + preposition pattern and phrasal verbs (Be prepared!)


a) Did you like the text? Why? Why not?
b) What’s your opinion about Trump’s executive order?
c) How many verb/noun + preposition could you find in the text?

So, if you’re doing a 60-minute class, you should stop here and ask for some feedback.

What I like to do is ask them to tell me at least 3 things they didn’t know before the class and now they do. It gives them a great sense of achievement!

Dealing with Grammar

As mentioned before, this lesson was previously designed to bolster the Present
Perfect.Have students identify examples of the Present Perfect in the text (active and passive voices)

Write good examples on the WB to deal with form and meaning. Have students match the uses of the Present Perfect with the examples from the article.


What I like to do is ask them to tell me at least 3 things they didn’t know before the class and now they do. It gives them a great sense of achievement.

sylviaSylvia Gonçalves has over 10 years of experience as an English teacher in both one-to-one and group classes in Brazil and abroad. She holds a CELTA and a Cert Ibet issued by the Trinity College.

Sylvia is a multilingual professional: Spanish, French, English and Portuguese who utilized modern teaching methods, software and applications and fostered creativity to increase students’ learning process. If you want to get in touch with her: sylviagoncalves@gmail.com